How to Improve Patient Experience with Patient-Reported Outcomes
A Note from CODE: Welcome to Professor’s Corner, a monthly series brought to you by Steve Wood, Ph.D.
A recent MGMA article provided two very telling points for procedure-oriented physicians, they were:
- Positive patient experience emerges when a patient is engaged with useful knowledge about his or her own condition
- Word of mouth can make or break a physician’s office with patients and referral sources.
How can you use Patient-Reported Outcome surveys to improve your patient’s experience?
1. Share useful information with the patient about their condition
In procedure-focused practices, a positive patient experience is influenced by the interactions with staff and the physician, the communication of relevant and interpretable information to the patient, and of course the outcome of the procedure. The PRO survey information can contribute to all of those influencers.
To begin, the simple request for pre-op PRO survey completion, if done properly can signal interest and compassion from the practice. This survey should be presented with an explanation that addresses the importance of understanding the patient’s functional situation so that their physician and staff can develop the most effective treatment approach to achieve the best outcomes. Practices should develop engaging emails, cover letters, or staff scripts to accomplish this in a consistent and engaging manner.
The pre-op survey information should be reviewed by the physician prior to seeing the patient, in order to identify specific pain and/or functionality issues and address them with the patient. The physician can indicate where he/she believes the patient will improve and what activities will be necessary for the patient to achieve the desired results.
In some cases, there are diagnoses where the only viable solution is surgery – e.g., injections and rehabilitation will not adequately address the patient’s issue. In these cases where a patient may be hesitant to have a procedure, but surgery is the only viable treatment approach, the physician can use aggregated PRO outcome data to show the patient the improvement that may be expected.
PRO data can also be used to address lifestyle issues such as smoking or obesity. This can be done by referencing the PRO data and indicating that by adjusting these behaviors, if necessary, the outcomes can expect to be better than if not addressed. This indicates preparation and focus on the physician’s part, both appreciated experience items by patients.
2. Help your patients understand their outcomes, so they can tell friends and family about their experience
Healthcare is one of, if not the, most amenable industry to word-of-mouth marketing. Whether in personal discussions with friends or family or social media conversations, patients like to talk about their experiences and outcomes.
PRO data can be used to inspire positive word-of-mouth referrals from patients. As an example, personally discussing the post-op survey results can lead to patients telling others about how much and in what ways the procedure improved their lives. Going through the overall and sub-score data with the physician, or even the physician’s assistant, can help patients understand the value received in ways that they didn’t know how to communicate before talking about it with their doctor.
Indicating to the patient that their score has increased “X%” from pre-survey gives them a metric to share and is rooted in their unique outcome. Encouraging your patients to share their results with others should be a part of the discussion.
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